Global health has emerged as a distinct field of academic research and professional activity. Over the last decade, health has become an important element of many nations' foreign policies, a routine agenda item for the G8 and a rapidly expanding focus of bilateral and multilateral development assistance. Some aspects of health, like the spread of easily transmitted communicable diseases, are self-evidently global in an age of rapid, low-cost air travel. Many more reflect the influence of transnational economic integration ('globalization') and its effects on national economies, societies and health systems. In still other cases, like non-communicable diseases in most low- and middle-income countries, the lack of impact on the interests of more powerful actors outside the borders of the affected areas makes it difficult to generate the concern and action on the part of the global community that may be imperative for ethical reasons. This multinational volume of original contributed papers simultaneously provides an overview of the state of current global health scholarship, reflects the multidisciplinary nature of the field, and highlights the most significant issues for research and policy.